Fylde face crunch Esher relegation clash

Vital Saturday for Fylde
Vital Saturday for Fylde
Have your say

It will be a test of endurance for Fylde RFC on Saturday as they travel to Esher for a vital National League One encounter.

And one player in the Fylde line-up should be well-equipped for the challenge as tackling extreme challenges runs in the family.

Matt Garrod is given another outing in the Fylde second row for a match vital to both sides in the battle to avoid relegation.

Garrod’s father, Ian, was a successful triathlete in his day, one of his accomplishments being to compete in the arduous swim, run and bike ride that is the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon.

Matt’s brother Alex has followed in his father’s footsteps by qualifying for Hawaii later this year.

Garrod impressed player-coach Paul Arnold that he was nominated as the man of the match in the 57-31 defeat at the hands of champions-elect Hartpury College at the Woodlands last Saturday when Fylde picked up a bonus point.

And Arnold has decided to watch tomorrow’s match at Esher so he can concentrate on coaching duties in the absence of back-up from assistants Warren Spragg, Alex Loney and Brian Ashton, who won’t be at Esher tomorrow.

In his absence, Arnold has entrusted second row duties to Garrod, who will lock the scrum with Jack Turley, who comes in for Nick Gray, who is unavailable.

Full-back Jordan Dorrington is likely to be sidelined with injury.

Watching former AKS Student Garrod against Hartpury were his three Fylde coaches from mini-juniors to colts, as well as his uncle John Nicholson, the former Fylde flanker.

There can be no under-stating the importance of tomorrow’s encounter with a win vital to both sides.

Absent from the Fylde squad is front row forward Jake Pope, who is on duty with the England Under-20 squad, while George Nott is not expected to figure as he could be in the Sale Sharks squad for their European Cup clash with Scarlets.

Indeed, skipper Chris Briers has put it in its proper context, describing the match as worth ‘double points’.

Fylde go into the match in 12th spot, with Esher one place behind as both clubs hover too close to the danger-zone for comfort.

The Woodlands club currently enjoy a three-point cushion, but Fylde’s wretched form away from home – they haven’t won on their travels for a week short of 12 months – means that they will always be vulnerable.

However, on the flip side, a win away at this stage of the season against Esher would give everyone a massive boost.

While Briers did not go as far as to say relegation was a taboo subject in the dressing-room, the Fylde captain said: “It is there in the back of our minds. It is not a worry at the minute, though obviously the reality is there.

“The Esher match is very important and we know that it is worth double points.”

Briers says there were encouraging signs in attack in the performance against Hartpury, but that the team paid the penalty for conceding early tries.

At half-time they trailed 33-10 and coming back from such a deficit was always going to leave Fylde with a mountain to climb.

Briers said: “In attack we were decent against Hartpury; we just needed to get things right from the first whistle and you can’t afford to make mistakes against a team like Hartpury, who will punish you – they are very clinical.

“It was always going to be difficult to come back from a deficit like that.”

As to Fylde’s woeful record on the road, which stretches back to almost 12 months, Briers admitted: “Losing is a habit and it becomes harder to get out of.

“We have to start performing the way we have shown we can do in front of our own crowd. We have to recreate that away from home.

“If we can get that win against Esher then it will widen the gap on them.”

Player-coach Arnold said: “We are taking every game as a cup final now. We are going to go at it and we are going to target it. We are concentrating on going down there and getting this win.”